The Cherry tree behind our house
rises eighty feet above the ground.
Once a year our four grandsons perch
between its three diverging trunks
where we capture their growth in a photograph.
At least one boy will see how high
he can climb one of the trunks.
The tree was likely there, though very small,
during the War Between the States.
But the river by our town
—we named it the Grand River—
was here long before.
It was called O-wash-ta-nong
and, about ten thousand years ago,
like the great Mishigami lake it flows into,
was carved in the earth by glaciers.
The tree, our house and our thriving town
perch between the ancient shores
of the winding river and the fresh water lake
on ground where tribes other than ours
once hunted, planted, fished and thrived.
And our whole Country squats on land
framed by two great salt seas.
The sea on the east bore white people here
a half millennium ago.
The sea on the west hides the lands
from which the truest natives of this land
likely came some two thousand years ago,
by crossing the icy land bridge Beringia.
It seems our lives are taken up by living here
in the busy present,
and we have little time to mind
the past of the ground that sustains us
…the history of its verdant life,
…the people who preceded us
…and like us wanted happy lives.
But…next time we chance to see
a mighty tree in someone’s yard
we might imagine what child
climbed its trunk long ago.
And when we walk at a river’s side
with houses, docks and motor boats,
let’s imagine who it was
that fished and swam there
in centuries past.
For we are here for just a while—
even great grandchildren leave.
The water and the living earth
are more than lovely picture frames—
they hold us all and give us life,
and carry on when we are gone.